By Amy Lane
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Getting the Angles Right

This article is over 17 years, 8 months old
Review of '1984', director Michael Radford
Issue 289

The opening scene: row after row of apathetic faces staring impassively at the despot before them. The speech delivered by the oblivious autocrat on the podium consists of vague threats regarding ‘dark forces’ and outside enemies… But this is not a review of Blair’s speech to the Trades Union Congress – this is 1984.

Brilliantly directed, filled with Orwellian satire and sensitively cast characters, Michael Radford’s depiction of the literary classic has never ceased to fascinate, inspire and warn viewers since its release. And today’s politically astute moviegoers can discover new angles on Orwell’s analysis by judging the film in the uncomfortably familiar setting of the self-perpetuating ‘war on terror’ and the erosion of civil liberties, as the dozens of quote-bearing placards spotted on anti-war demonstrations show.

For anyone even vaguely interested in the study of imperialism, this film is a must see. The processes of economic imperialism, proletarian enslavement and continuous war are explained painlessly through Winston and Julia’s private resistance. This is a brilliant introduction to socialist economics for those who prefer the screen to the page.

Twenty years on from its release 1984 has lost none of its vitality: the language (much of it tinged with ‘newspeak’) is as accessible as ever, the plot only seems to gain poignancy with time, and the concept of Big Brother remains almost as scary as its Channel 4 namesake. If you have not already seen this film then it’s about time you did. Beg, borrow, steal (or win!) a copy and invite some comrades round for a night of breathtaking film.


1984, featuring a charismatic final performance from Richard Burton, is out on DVD from 20 September for £15.99. Socialist Review has five copies of the DVD and Orwell’s original novel to give away.

For a chance to win a copy of each, answer the following three questions:

1. With which party’s militia did George Orwell fight in the Spanish Civil War?

2. What is ‘Ingsoc’ the phrase for?

3. Who or what is in room 101?

Closing date 29 October. Winners will be picked at random. Send answers to [email protected] or Socialist Review, PO Box 82, London E3 3LH.

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